|The Kiss of the Vampire|
|Directed by||Don Sharp|
|Written by||John Elder|
|Produced by||Anthony Hinds|
|Starring||Edward de Souza|
|Edited by||James Needs|
|Music by||James Bernard|
|Distributed by||J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors (UK)|
Universal Pictures (USA)
The Kiss of the Vampire (also known as Kiss of Evil on American television) is a 1963 British vampire film made by the film studio Hammer Film Productions. The film was directed by Don Sharp and was written by producer Anthony Hinds, credited under his writing pseudonym John Elder.
It was Sharp's first movie for Hammer. He went on to make several more films for the company.
Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel), are a honeymooning couple in early 20th-century Bavaria who become caught in a vampire cult led by Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman) and his two children Carl (Barry Warren) and Sabena (Jacquie Wallis). The cult abducts Marianne, and contrives to make it appear that Harcourt was travelling alone and that his wife never existed. Harcourt gets help from hard-drinking savant Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans), who lost his daughter to the cult and who destroys the vampires through an arcane ritual using the Seal of Solomon that releases a swarm of bats from Hell.
Originally intended to be the third movie in Hammer's Dracula series (which began with 1958's Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and was followed by 1960's The Brides of Dracula with Cushing alone), it was another attempt by Hammer to make a Dracula sequel without Christopher Lee. The final script by Anthony Hinds makes no reference to Dracula and expands on the directions taken in Brides by portraying vampirism as a social disease afflicting those who choose a decadent lifestyle.
The job of directing was offered to Don Sharp, who later said he had never seen a horror film before being asked to the job by Tony Hinds. Hinds told Sharp he thought the director would be ideal based on Sharp's other work. The director watched Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and Stranglers from Bombay and became enthusiastic.
"What intrigued me about them was after about 20 minutes I was totally hooked despite a totally absurd situation," he said later. "I thought it was wonderful - here was a genre with its own ground rules and self contained world and you could be theatrical but treat it realistically to grab the audience and make them believe something absurd."
Sharp said he was worried that "as Hammer progressed, the goal seemed to be for each picture to top the one before it and they were becoming satiated with violence. So I persuaded Tony that it was better to suggest 'Is it going to happen?' and give the audience a little touch of it, and then go on and really get your big shock at the end. There could be a good size shock in the middle too but not all the time."
Sharp said "I've always believed there needs to be a separation between suspense and shock. You lead on a mood but if you introduce the shock moment too quickly then it's expected. If you hang on keeping the same mood and tempo as the rest of the sequence, and then shatter the mood with a sudden violent moment, that's when it really works."
The film went into production on 7 September 1962 at Bray Studios. It was not released until 1964.
Sharp enjoyed making the film and later said Tony Hinds was the best producer he ever worked with.
This is the only credited feature film screen role of Jacquie Wallis, who plays Sabena.
The film's climax, involving black magic and swarms of bats, was intended to be the ending of The Brides of Dracula, but the star of that film, Peter Cushing, objected that Van Helsing would never resort to black sorcery. However, the paperback novelization of Brides does use this ending.
Retitled Kiss of Evil for American TV, Universal trimmed so much of the original film for its initial television screening that more footage had to be shot to fill the missing time. Additional characters that didn't appear at all in the original release were added, creating a whole new subplot. Every scene that showed blood was edited out, e.g. the pre-credits scene in which blood gushes from the coffin of Zimmer's daughter after he plunges a shovel into it. Also, in the televised version it is never revealed what Marianne sees behind the curtain (Ravna lying on his bed with blood trickling from the corners of his mouth), a sight which makes her scream. A couple of the cuts result in scenes that no longer make sense: while the theatrical release had Harcourt smearing the blood on his chest into a cross-shaped pattern (keeping the vampires away as he escapes), the televised version omits the blood-smearing, leaving the vampires' inaction unexplained.
The additional footage shot for the televised version revolves around a family, the Stanghers, who argue about the influence of the vampiric Ravna clan but never interact with anybody else in the movie. The teenage daughter, Theresa, throws over her boyfriend in favor of Carl Ravna (unseen in these scenes) who has given her a music box which plays the same hypnotic tune that he plays on the piano elsewhere in the movie.
Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote,"Until the picture floridly hops off the track toward the end, this horror exercise is a quietly stylish, ice-cold treat, beautifully tinted, well-directed (Don Sharp) and persuasively acted (Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel have the leads)." Variety wrote "Horror fans will dig this latest effort from the Hammer Film shop in Britain. It is a slickly-produced color story of evil doings in Bavaria, circa 1910, replete with suspense, demonism and mystery tightly wrapped in a skillful package of effective performance and well-paced direction." The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote "No new developments seem to have emerged in the vampire world, and this film is a straightforward and rather tame rehash of the standard formula...The direction is competent enough, though Don Sharp reveals no flair for this kind of thing, and there is a signal lack of atmosphere."
In North America, the film was released on 6 September 2005 along with seven other Hammer horror films (The Brides of Dracula, Nightmare, The Evil of Frankenstein, The Curse of the Werewolf, Paranoiac, Night Creatures, The Phantom of the Opera) on the four-DVD set The Hammer Horror Series (ASIN: B0009X770O), which is part of MCA-Universal's Franchise Collection. This set was re-released on Blu-ray on 13 September 2016. In July 2020, Scream Factory released the film with a collector's edition Blu-ray that included both 1.85:1 and 1.66:1 aspect ratios as well as the TV version Kiss of Evil in standard definition.